Chapter 14: Fight or Flight

The following day, Smith was delighted to have a visit from his favorite Utak siblings. He'd grown fond of them, especially Kress. If there was one memory of this whole horrific experience Smith wanted to keep, it was of Kress' "thank you" and their many conversations.

They spent most of the morning discussing life on their respective home worlds, especially their favorite delicacies. Smith couldn't help but steer the conversation in that direction, as he couldn't remember the last decent meal he'd had. Once that topic had played out and talk turned to memories of home, Smith mostly listened, because he was quite certain he'd never see home again and it depressed him.

During their visit, a lone guard had come to the Robinson camp. He rousted the Utak siblings from their positions near the doctor and ordered them away.

"Now see here!" Smith said indignantly, as the Utak stood nearby, not wanting to leave.

The guard glared evilly at Smith, which quieted him immediately. It was a look that meant trouble and Smith had no desire to see anyone hurt. Then the guard shot a glare at Kress and her brother. They hesitantly left the immediate area, but stayed within earshot.

"Mal J'hat wishes you to know that you will be summoned to the arena in two days," the guard announced.

"Summoned? Or dragged?" Smith said coolly.

"It depends on your cooperation. One way or the other, you will end up there," the guard replied. "Once there, you will be challenged. Should you accept, you will have the opportunity to fight for your life. Should you decline, your execution will go on as scheduled." He studied Smith for a moment and then laughed, as if the doctor didn't have a chance. The guard turned on his heels and left.

The Professor and Major West had been listening to the exchange. "Don, I think that might be our chance," he said. "Smith will be out of the cell. If we can create enough of a distraction, perhaps with the help of some our alien friends, we can slip out during the pandemonium."

"And what?" West asked. "We won't have time to disable their defenses."

"And... run like hell and pray?" the Professor replied. "It's the best we can manage right now."

The Major smiled. "I suppose so. At least we'll have the element of surprise to our advantage."

...

Once the guard had left, Kress and her brother returned. Smith could tell they were distressed. When they explained what the challenge would most likely be, he understood the reason for their discomfort. He had assumed he would be fighting Mal J'hat. While he didn't relish the opportunity, he figured he at least had a fair shot, if prior experience was any indication. However, that would most likely not be the case. Mal J'hat had a habit of having others do his dirty work, at least up until the point where he could take over and finish the job and claim the glory with little risk to himself. B'tal, a behemoth who simply never lost, was Mal J'hat's favorite choice to soften up prisoners in the arena, leaving very little for the chief to contend with.

Kress had seen B'tal fight prisoners on more than one occasion. She supplied a detailed description of the Asmani arena champ, which only made Smith wonder if he was really being giving a chance at all. Though his odds in the arena were only slightly better than the alternative, he'd have to fight.

...

Smith had little to do but wait for his day in the arena. The Professor had filled him in on their escape plans. It was less detailed and more risky than the doctor would have preferred, but it was all they had. All he had to do was run, something he knew how to do very well.

When the time came, dozens upon dozens of guards entered the stockade, weapons drawn. Mal J'hat liked to play to a full house, so the guards took small groups of prisoners at a time to the arena to fill the stands and view the spectacle. The Professor and Major West hadn't expected that and before long, most of their allies who had pledged their support in an escape attempt had been escorted away. The humans were the last to be chained together and escorted to the arena.

"What now?" West whispered to the Professor.

"Plan B," he replied.

"What's that?"

"Improvise," the Professor answered. "If you find an opening, take it."

The Major was going to ask just how to find an opening with two dozen guards watching them, but decided against it after being warned by a jab from a guard's laser rifle.

West glanced back at Smith. The older man's face was creased with worry. The Major wouldn't realize the extent of Smith's worry until he saw the monstrosity he was set to face.

Unfortunately, no opening for escape materialized en route. As they entered the arena, Smith searched for the goliath Kress had described and quickly spotted him among the Asmani milling around the edges of the field of battle. He was hard to miss, as he towered above nearly everyone there. He stood at least eight feet tall and was all muscle. Smith knew he was outclassed physically, so he silently prayed his opponent was clumsy, stupid, or both.

The humans were brought down to the arena floor, while the other prisoners were situated on benches up in the stands. Smith's manacles were removed, while the Robinsons and Major West remained secured in theirs. The guards gestured for the humans to sit in the metal folding chairs that lined the arena, but they all declined and remained standing. One of the guards shoved the doctor forward onto the dirt infield of the arena towards Mal J'hat, who stood in the center.

Mal J'hat motioned Smith towards him. He also motioned B'tal to the center of the arena as well. He then pressed a button on the communications device on his arm. Smith surmised he had just patched into some sort of PA system, as he heard a bit of static emanate from speakers around the arena.

"Doctor Smith, you have been condemned to death for your crimes," Mal J'hat's voice boomed over the loudspeakers. "But I am not heartless..."

"You could have fooled me," Smith retorted.

Judging by the laughs in the audience, the microphone had obviously picked up Smith's response. Incensed by the doctor's insolence, Mal J'hat swung the back of his hand toward Smith's face. Smith, well versed in the despot's tactics by now, quickly dodged backward out of reach, smirk firmly in place on his untouched face. Mal J'hat glared menacingly at the doctor, but didn't attempt another swing.

"As I was saying," he continued, "I am graciously giving you a chance to fight for your life. Your opponent will be B'tal." He gestured toward the colossal Asmani warrior standing nearby. "Do you choose to accept this opportunity?"

Smith studied his opponent, wanting no part of him. He glanced back at the Robinsons and Major West, who all had apprehensive looks on their faces. He made his decision. He cleared his throat and announced, "I will not fight him." He jabbed a thumb sideways at his opponent who stood next to him.

"You choose death, then?" Mal J'hat confirmed.

"No," Smith stated. He pointed at the Asmani chief. "I choose to fight you." He folded his arms across his chest and awaited an answer.

A murmur rose from the audience. Nobody had ever challenged Mal J'hat. They too anxiously awaited the chief's response.

Mal J'hat seethed. This was not going exactly as he had planned. He hadn't counted on the doctor's audacity. He wasn't the type. Little did he know it wasn't audacity that had spurred the doctor to make the challenge. It was pure fear. Next to B'tal, Mal J'hat looked much more appealing as an opponent. Mal J'hat's gaze wandered around the arena. It was one thing to be called a coward by the doctor in the privacy of his own quarters. It was quite another to be branded one by everyone in the arena, including hundreds of prisoners.

"Well?" Smith prodded, confident that he had wedged the leader into a situation he couldn't gracefully extract himself from. The evil glare Mal J'hat threw at him only reinforced the thought.

"Very well," Mal J'hat said. "I accept your challenge, doctor." He lunged at Smith, fist connecting solidly to the doctor's jaw almost before the words had left his mouth.

Smith stumbled backward and brought a hand to his jaw. Gasps echoed through the arena at the sucker punch. Mal J'hat lunged again, awkwardly this time, but Smith deftly dodged the punch. The chief's momentum took him past the doctor and Smith couldn't resist planting a boot in his backside, sending his opponent into the dirt. Cheers and boos reverberated through the arena, the prisoners simply delighted and the Asmani afraid to express their true feelings.

Mal J'hat scrambled to his feet and rounded on the doctor, tensed and ready to strike again. Smith tensed too and mirrored his opponent's stance, determined to avoid anything that would inflict additional pain upon his person, though he realized the chances of that were very slim.

The Asmani chief took a quick step forward and tried grabbing Smith in a hold. The doctor swatted Mal J'hat's hands away and took several steps back out of reach. His move effectively parried, Mal J'hat ran at Smith, tackling him to the ground. Smith hit the ground hard, his head snapping back and smacking against the arena floor. Dazed, he was unable to deflect Mal J'hat's hands as they reached for his throat.

The immediate threat triggered a rush of adrenaline and Smith desperately dug his nails into Mal J'hat's hands. Mal J'hat grunted in pain, but his grip held firm. Smith grabbed his opponent's wrists and tried pushing them away with all the strength he could muster. He made little progress, but when Mal J'hat leaned down to force more pressure onto Smith's throat, the doctor saw an opening and took it. He threw a well-placed jab into Mal J'hat's nose, stunning him for the briefest of moments. Pain radiated through Smith's knuckles and up his arm, eliciting a grunt of pain. He shook his hand, but resisted the urge to survey the damage, as time was quickly running out for him. Gritting his teeth to the pain that would inevitably follow, he threw a harder jab, which caused the chief's grip to falter. It was then that the doctor shoved his opponent with all his might, throwing him off. He quickly rolled away and struggled to his feet, one hand massaging his throat as his lungs frantically fought to pull in air. His other arm pressed tightly against the renewed pain in his previously bruised ribs.

Mal J'hat quickly got to his feet. He noticed the doctor favoring his left side and grinned, planning to exploit that knowledge in his attacks. The chief came at Smith again and, though every fiber of the doctor's being screamed at him to flee, he stood his ground. Mal J'hat swung at him and Smith ducked, but he wasn't prepared for the body blow his opponent hammered into his mid section. As he doubled over, the doctor took a punch to the head and stumbled backwards. Before he could get his wits about him, another shot to the head put him on the ground again.

Major West whispered to the Professor, "He's in trouble already. He doesn't stand a chance." The Professor didn't bother to dispute the statement.

Smith rolled over onto his stomach and struggled to his hands and knees. Mal J'hat didn't waste any time going on the offensive again, this time with a quick kick to Smith's injured left side. The doctor howled in pain and grabbed his ribs, but somehow managed to get to his feet and out of Mal J'hat's reach.

For every step Mal J'hat took toward him, Smith shuffled a step back, staying out of reach until he had sufficiently recovered. This elicited boos from the crowd, but he cared very little. His opponent, tired of being led in a dance, went for Smith again and they met, two pairs of arms grappling for an advantage. The doctor's side screamed at him to do something to relieve the pressure and pain. Smith took a step forward, shoved his arms down and a knee up, surprising the Asmani chief with a blow to his mid-section that took the wind out of him. He released his grip and Smith let his opponent fall to the ground. Realizing he had a clear shot, the doctor added a quick kick to Mal J'hat's head, sending him flat on his back. The doctor took a few cautious deep breaths as he massaged his side.

As his opponent lingered on the ground, Smith pressed his advantage and aimed another kick at the despot's side in retaliation, but by that time Mal J'hat was ready. He caught Smith's leg and yanked hard, sending the doctor to the dirt. The fall sent a jolt up Smith's spine, paralyzing him with pain. He rolled over onto his stomach, the back of one hand pressed tightly against his lower back and his face frozen in a tortured grimace.

"Oh, John. I can't watch this," Mrs. Robinson cried as she turned her head away. The Professor held her in an attempt to comfort her, but he felt the exact same way. If they'd had a choice, they wouldn't be witness to this barbarism. If they had a choice, they wouldn't even be on this planet and neither would Smith.

Mal J'hat staggered to his feet and rested for a moment, hands on his knees. A few seconds later, he grabbed a handful of Smith's tunic and hauled the doctor to his knees. He immediately put him a chokehold from behind. Smith's hands grasped his opponent's arm and pulled ineffectually against the hold. It took a few precious moments for the doctor's mind to find the answer to his dilemma. When he did, he grasped the pressure point just above his opponent's elbow and squeezed hard. Mal J'hat's face contorted in pain and he broke the hold. Smith shoved his opponent backward, affording him some space to both recover and maneuver.

Smith's stamina was seriously flagging and his body ached everywhere. Without the affects of the adrenaline coursing through his veins, he'd be finished already. Mal J'hat was easily ten years younger and in better physical condition. The doctor realized this would not be nearly as easy as he thought, but still, it was better than facing the Asmani goliath. He staggered over to the wall of the arena and leaned it against it, taking whatever short respite his opponent would allow.

As Mal J'hat approached, Smith pushed himself away from the wall and backed away from his opponent toward the middle of the arena. The chief quickly caught up to the doctor and landed a combination of punches to Smith's head. Smith went down again and tried to shake the cobwebs from his head. His opponent just stood over him, as if waiting for him to get up for more punishment. Smith saw another opportunity and took it, slamming a booted foot into the despot's knee. With a cry of pain, Mal J'hat was on his knees and another target of opportunity opened up. Smith pushed himself to his knees and landed a right cross to his opponent's face. It connected solidly, whipping Mal J'hat's head back and spraying blood everywhere. The doctor yelped at the stinging pain that shot through his knuckles and up his forearm. As his opponent lay on the ground, stunned, Smith got to his feet, shaking and massaging his bruised hand.

Mal J'hat turned onto his stomach and lingered on the ground for a moment. Smith could see movement, but kept his distance, as he had no idea just what his opponent was up to. Mal J'hat rose slowly and wiped the blood from his face with a sleeve. He strode toward the doctor to engage him again.

The Asmani chief took another swipe at the doctor and, as Smith dodged backward, a trail of fire raced across his chest. He shrieked in pain and grasped at his burning flesh. He stumbled back and looking down, saw his shirt had been torn open and a thin red line traveled the width of his chest. A quick assessment told him it was mostly superficial, but it burned like hell. Looking at his opponent, he saw the glint of the knife in his hand and Smith's eyes widened in fear.

"That guy's gonna make mincemeat of Smith with that knife. This is an unfair fight!" West observed angrily. "Smith didn't get a weapon!" The boos erupting in the arena agreed with the Major.

None of the Robinsons bothered to contradict their pilot. Each was sure they were going to witness the end of the doctor and most likely in a gruesome manner. What made it so difficult was that they were helpless to stop it, or so they thought.

Smith had held his own so far, or at the very least he was still standing, but he knew Mal J'hat had the advantage of youth. The despot could easily have worn the doctor down had he wanted to and won the match fair and square, but instead, he resorted to dirty tricks. Smith's fear turned to righteous indignation at the thought. Then, as Mal J'hat came at him, knife raised and poised to stab, Smith's righteous indignation turned to anger and it burned as hotly as the wound on his chest. He wasn't going to go out like this, especially not with his family watching. Muscle memory, long buried in Smith's subconscious, took over as the threat approached. As Mal J'hat swung the weapon downward, Smith stepped to his left, brought his right arm up against his opponent's to deflect the blow, and then slammed his other hand into the knife wielding arm in an effort to dislodge the weapon. The move was smooth and practiced, as if the doctor had performed it many times before.

West smiled. He nudged the Professor. "Hey! Look at that. Seems Smith learned something in the Air Force."

The Professor smiled cautiously, completely aware that this fight was far from over.

Mal J'hat managed to hang on to the weapon, but Smith was now in the perfect position to pull his opponent's arm behind his back and he did so while shoving him into the arena wall. The tyrant finally let loose of the weapon and struggled to break free of the doctor's grasp. He slammed the heel of his boot down hard on Smith's toes and the doctor let loose for a split second as the pain shot up his leg. Before Mal J'hat could turn around, however, Smith wrapped his arms around him in a headlock and squeezed for all he was worth.

The Asmani chief struggled to pull free of the doctor's grasp. The two nearly spun in a circle as Mal J'hat tried to trip Smith. Suddenly, Mal J'hat shoved backwards, slamming Smith hard into the arena wall. The doctor released his grip and slid to the ground.

As his opponent came for him, Smith spied the knife laying in the dirt right next to him. When he picked it up, Mal J'hat stopped in his tracks. The doctor slowly pushed himself to stand with the help of the wall. With a quick hand signal from Mal J'hat, B'tal charged out to assist his leader. Smith's confidence quickly turned to indecision and fear in the face of two formidable opponents.

Seeing Smith in serious trouble and outnumbered, the Major struggled futilely with his bonds. He paused a moment and then exclaimed, "I'm so stupid!"

The Professor looked at him, puzzled. "Good thing Doctor Smith didn't hear that," he quipped. "Just why are you so stupid?"

West pulled down the edge of his sleeve to reveal the key to the manacles Smith had given him when they were about to be shipped out to the palace. It had remained securely tucked between his wrist and his manacles all this time. Both mens' faces lit up at the discovery.

West recalled what the doctor had told him about using the key. "I would say this situation could be classified as 'dicey', wouldn't you, John?" the Major asked.

The Professor nodded. "That's an understatement."

The Major quickly released himself from his bonds and passed the key to the Professor. Not bothering to wait for the others to be freed, he charged out into the arena to help Smith. By the time Mal J'hat heard West coming, it was too late. The Major slammed into the tyrant and tackled him to the ground.

"Thanks for leaving me King Kong, Major," Smith grumbled. The doctor glanced from the behemoth to the knife in his hand and back again. "I think I need a bigger knife."

Not wanting B'tal to get close enough to lay a hand on him, he tried his luck and flung the dagger as hard as he could. Unfortunately, the handle hit B'tal's leather armor and the blade dropped ineffectually to the ground. As an angry scowl darkened the behemoth's face, Smith decided that moment would be a good time to flee.

The doctor took off running, the angry giant close on his heels. "Major! Maaaajoooorrrr! Heeeeeellllp!"

The familiar sound of the doctor's desperate pleas for help reached the Major's ears, but unfortunately for the doctor, the Major had his hands full with Mal J'hat. When he managed to glance up to see what trouble Smith was in, he was rewarded with a fist to his face. As he blocked additional shots from his opponent and retaliated with a few of his own, he was beginning to wonder how the doctor was still standing, let alone running, after the pounding he'd taken. West managed to connect with a right cross. As his opponent stumbled backward, he followed up with a left hook and then a right, sending him into the dirt.

While West and Smith were busy, the Professor freed the rest of the family and cautioned them to stay put. He'd be back soon with the others and they'd attempt an escape if they could manage a sufficient distraction.

"But dad, I can help!" Will pleaded.

"Against THAT?" the Professor replied. "You stay PUT. You hear me?"

Will stayed silent, but the disappointment on his face convinced the Professor that his message was received. As soon as the Professor's back was turned, Will quickly and quietly followed his father, much to the protests of his mother and sisters.

With West's opponent sufficiently stunned, he ran off to help Smith. What he found was B'tal holding the whimpering doctor over his head like a trophy. The Professor was pummeling the giant with ineffectual body blows while Will worked on the back of B'tal's legs.

"Will! I told you to stay PUT!" the Professor barked. "Get back over there with your mother and sisters!"

"But you need help!" Will argued.

"Look out!" West yelled as he barreled toward them as fast as he could. The Professor and Will cleared the way as the Major crashed into B'tal's mid-section at full force. West fell to the ground stunned, as if he'd just run headlong into a brick wall. Despite B'tal being virtually immovable, the attack had the desired effect and the giant dropped Smith, who landed directly on top of Major West, face to face.

"Major, what kept you?" Smith inquired.

"Unnnnngh."

"What does that mean?"

"It means, get the hell off me!" West yelled as he shoved at the doctor.

The doctor complied and rolled onto the ground.

"I think they need to cut back your rations," the Major added.

Smith got to his feet and dusted himself off, his back to West. "I doubt it would have been any less painful if I was lighter, Major." He started walking over to where the Robinsons were. "Besides, if I were any lighter, that beast could have used me for a javelin."

"Smith?"

"What?" the doctor asked, not bothering to turn around.

"Smith!" the Major yelled, more urgently.

"What?" Smith said, annoyed. He turned to face the Major, only to see him taking a turn over the head of the behemoth.

Smith stood there staring, mouth agape. It had been terrifying to be in the position that West was now in, but seeing it from his current perspective, he realized just how large B'tal was and how small and fragile the Major looked in comparison.

The Professor tapped Smith on the arm. "C'mon, Smith. We've gotta get Don down from there."

"Oh," Smith replied. "Yes, of course. You lead the way, Professor." Smith stayed well behind the man as he led the charge toward the giant.

The Professor attempted the same tactic as Major West with nearly the same results, only the Professor had the wherewithal to roll out of the way of West's descent. As the two men lay on the ground, they were unaware of Mal J'hat who was almost on top of them.

"Dad! Look out!" Will yelled.

Suddenly, the Professor saw the glint of metal in his peripheral vision and a blur of movement. Before he could react, Mal J'hat flew sideways past his field of view and landed with a heavy thud. Smith was on top of him, struggling with the knife. Mrs. Robinson quickly joined the doctor in attempting to disarm the dictator, scratching and slapping at Mal J'hat's hands.

Meanwhile, Judy led Will and Penny against B'tal as he attempted to attack Major West again. They were like gnats against his size and power, but they had the advantage of speed and struck quickly at one spot, then moved to another. While Will kept the giant busy, Penny gave Judy a lift and she grabbed around the giant's neck, slapping, punching, and pulling his hair. He flailed his arms wildly as he tried desperately to dislodge her. She managed to poke one of his eyes and he stumbled around half blind. Together, they kept the giant preoccupied and unable to mount any effective attack.

Half a dozen guards ran onto the field to collect the human prisoners. T'pat joined them, more to protect the humans than anything else. As they approached the prisoners, the guard next to him pulled his pistol and aimed at Mrs. Robinson. T'pat managed to trip the guard, throwing off his aim as he fell. T'pat tumbled as well, to make it look like an accident. The shot went high and wide, hitting B'tal in the chest. The giant was unfazed as his armor provided sufficient protection, but the humans were surprised by the blast. They scrambled in every direction, hoping to avoid any additional fire.

The Robinson siblings quickly regrouped. When one of the guards grabbed Will, Penny dove and grabbed one of the guard's legs as he began to haul her brother off. The distraction was enough for Judy to grab the club hanging from the guard's belt. She proceeded to strike him repeatedly about the head until he released Will and fell to the ground, covering his head defensively with his arms.

The Major and the Professor fought back to back, taking down guards as they came at them and saving each other's bacon multiple times when one was outclassed or outnumbered.

The prisoners in the stands were incensed that the guards would fire on unarmed prisoners. Several of the large Kir Gal who had vowed to help in the humans' escape managed to surprise and overpower nearby guards, taking their weapons and keys to release their bonds. They, too, rushed the field and entered the fray. Fights broke out in the stands as the prisoners passed around keys, freeing themselves to take on their captors. The Asmani had very little choice but to fight back in order to defend themselves from the overwhelming numbers. Some, nearest the exits, fled in terror. Several of the fights flooded out of the stands and into the field.

Having disarmed Mal J'hat and rendered him unconscious, Smith directed Mrs. Robinson out of harm's way, toward a relatively quiet corner of the arena. One guard caught up to the duo and grabbed Smith's shoulder, turning him around. Smith cringed as he barely had time to register the fist coming toward his face. It never connected, however, as Mrs. Robinson landed a sharp kick to the guard's shins. That gave Smith the opening he needed and he hammered the guard with a right cross.

Smith shook out his hand and surveyed his bleeding knuckles. "My hand is a complete disaster area. It will never be the same."

While Smith was bemoaning the condition of his hand, the guard had recovered and was winding up to clobber the doctor.

"Doctor Smith, duck!" Mrs. Robinson yelled.

The doctor immediately hit the dirt as his opponent swung. Smith heard a metallic crunching sound, a grunt of pain, and the sound of a body slumping to the ground. When he looked up, Mrs. Robinson was standing over the unconscious guard, a folding chair in her hands. It had a large dent in the seat that the doctor surmised was caused by the guard's face.

"Thank you, madame," Smith said gratefully.

"You're very welcome, Doctor Smith," Mrs. Robinson acknowledged with a smile. She tossed the chair away and dusted off her hands.

The Professor quickly arrived on the scene and checked on the condition of his wife and the doctor. Major West soon joined them, a little bruised and out of breath, but otherwise in good shape. Judy led the way for her siblings through a crowd of combatants by swinging the club she had purloined. The entire family, honorary members and all, were soon reunited.

The Professor quickly addressed his family. "I thought I told all of you to stay put."

His children started to protest, but a quick smile from their father stopped them.

"C'mon," the Professor urged. "Now's our chance. This way."

West took position behind Judy and next to Smith, to keep a watchful eye on the battered and bruised doctor.

The Professor led them through a sea of combatants, ducking and dodging as they made their way to the nearest exit. The corridor was clear as they left the arena.

"That way!" Smith shouted and pointed as he directed the Professor toward a corridor that connected to the outermost corridors of the complex. "There's an exit not too far from here."

"No!" Will shouted. "We have to get the Robot."

"Son, we don't have time," the Professor responded.

"He's in safe hands, William," Smith added.

Will hesitated, unwilling to leave his friend behind.

"We'll get him back. I promise," the doctor added. "Let's go." Smith placed his hand on Will's back and nudged him forward.

They raced down the corridor. Smith, with West helping him, brought up the rear. They came to an intersection and Smith directed them down the left one. Despite his exhaustion and injuries, Smith pushed himself for all he was worth though his body screamed for rest. He knew he wouldn't get another chance at escape again. If he stopped, as he often did when fleeing various monsters from other worlds, he knew he'd die.

After traveling the length of that corridor, they turned right and saw the large outer door looming tantalizingly ahead of them. All of a sudden, a flood of guards streamed into the corridor in front of them from both sides. The Robinson party came to a sliding halt. Seeing prisoners free in the hallway, the guards shouted and ran at them. The humans all turned back and retraced their steps, intending to outrun or lose the guards and try another door.

A call went out over the communications network and dozens of guards heading for the arena turned around and ran to intercept the human prisoners. Within minutes, the Robinsons, Major West, and Doctor Smith found themselves trapped in the middle of a corridor between two groups of guards, all with weapons drawn. Wisely, they raised their hands and offered no resistance as they were taken back into custody.

"It was a valiant effort, Professor," Smith whispered.

The Professor nodded somberly as he and the others were secured in manacles again.

They could all hear the roar of the riot taking place in the arena. Despite their failure, Smith smiled, realizing he'd survived the ordeal. He had no illusions that Mal J'hat would honor the deal, but he counted it as a small victory anyway. His last thought before they marched him back to the stockade was to wonder what was happening to Mal J'hat at the moment. He hoped the tyrant was stuck in the middle of the melee, fearing for his life.

Continue to Chapter 15: A Matter of Time

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